The diverse heritage of the people of the Westman Islands is quite surprising for such a small island and population. Living in the Westman Islands has not been easy throughout the ages, being so remote with the sea around, bad weather, and a life volcano underneath. The island is rich in bird life and the proximity to the fish in the sea has helped the people surviving for centuries and filled the island with work and life.
The Wonder of Westman Islands is 2-hour panoramic tour, where we drive around and stop at the most interesting points in Westman Islands. A little walk takes us to incredible places rich in beautiful nature, unbelievable history and ground that might be younger than you selves.
We expect to start the tour on the pier, however it is not a problem to pick the group up where requested. We drive to Sprangan, the rope swinging training station, where we learn about rope swinging. Rope swinging in cliffs is the national sport of the islanders, the training station are a rope in high cliffs, with different heights, in which islanders jump out and swing with confidence back and forward. In the past, boys practiced rope swinging to prepare themselves for collecting eggs from bird nests, but this was an important source of food in the springtime. Today we honor the memory and teach the children of Westman Islands to rope swing. Guests are welcome to try rope swinging with assistance from the guide.
Next is the valley (dalurinn), which is best known for the National Festival of Westman Islands (Þjóðhátíð), which is the oldest and one of the largest music festivals in Iceland. The festival has been held since 1874. However, the valley has a much longer history and many stories are related to the valley, e.g. are the ruins of the first stone house in Iceland and the first inhabitants of the Westman Islands settled there. The pirates of the Turkish invasion in the 16th century robbed this same valley and you can see points named after that disaster. It is also lovely to walk to the replica of the first settlers man house or to the pond in the middle of the valley where high rock walls tower over and adorn the natural beauty that is memorable.
On a slow drive the sightseeing tour takes us to Great Cape (Stórhöfði). At that drive you can see the Elephant rock that is like carved in stone when you drive by the golf course. Elephant rock is the most famous landmark in the Westman Islands and it is a special experience to see how big it is with your own eyes. The small islands are at their most beautiful in good weathers and you can even see Surtsey if the weather allows. Surtsey is the youngest island off Iceland and is on the UNESCO world heritage list. We drive past Pirate Cove (Ræningjatangi) and up Great Cape where we enjoy the view in all directions and even take a group photo where the background is the best you can think of.
In Great Cape is also a bird watching house by one of the largest puffin colonies in the world. In the summer there are a lot of puffins in the Westman Islands, we stop for a good while and look at the puffin when the season is right. Puffins can often be seen flying with sand lance in their peak or sitting by their holes.
Next is a tour over the new lava, but the Heimaey eruption in 1973 enlarged the island when lava began to flow to the east and into the sea, but the lava also flowed to the west and submerged one third of the houses in the town. The guide tells stories of the people who experienced these natural disasters, both dramatic stories and stories you will be laughing of. People were awakened when the eruption began one night in January and had to leave their homes at that moment. The journey was difficult and the uncertainty scary. Stories of the people who returned are incredible as people showed perseverance and power that is hard to imagine. Walking on the lava that was created in the eruption of 1973 is extremely unique, such a young soil and unbelievable story. You can clearly see and feel the size of the eruption in the recent lava field and experience the beauty in the lava, history and view of the island and the town.